Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, January 13, 2007
      ( 1/13/2007 07:45:00 AM ) Bill S.  

FAME TAKES A MAN AND MAKES HIM OVER – Been immersing myself over the past few days in a set of 4 Seasons reissues that're being released by Collector's Choice Music (first immediate fave: the group's doomed and barely remembered attempt to produce its own Sgt. Pepper, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette), and in checking some of the Jersey Boys' fan sites (like this fan club blog), I became aware of a controversy that I hadn't known was taken so close to heart by many of the group's long-running fans. When the boys were inducted into the Rock And Roll of Fame back in 1990, only the band's initial four members (singer Frankie Valli, keyboardist/songwriter Bob Gaudio, guitarist Tommy DeVito & bassist/vocal arranger Nick Massi) were admitted. Yet in 1965, Massi was replaced by Joe Long, who remained with the group for the rest of its hitmaking career. That's Massi who you hear on the breakthrough 1962-63 hits "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Walk Like A Man" (among others); it's Long you hear on mid-sixties tracks like "I've Got You Under My Skin" or "C'mon Marianne." To many fans, Long's a part of the 4 Seasons' sound.

I don't have a dog in this particular race (though if forced to choose, I probably would opine that Massi's bass singing on "Walk Like A Man" remains an essential part of that song), though it did get me thinking about the Hall of Fame and this year's inductees: both R.E.M. and Van Halen are bands that underwent serious personnel changes over the years, though I can't imagine there are many fans too bent-out-of-shape by the fact that Sammy Hagar isn't included as a Van Halen inductee. It does raise the question of the specific guidelines for inclusion into the Hall of Fame, though: what particular body of work is being considered? Is it primarily the early, sound-establishing stuff (in which case, Long's absence is understandable) or the broader body of work? Looking at, f'rinstance, the Rolling Stones' entry, I see that band latecomer Ron Wood is included in the inductee timeline, though he didn't join the World's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band 'til twelve years after its birth.

In any event, I remain dubious about the entire Hall of Fame enterprise – in part, because I can't imagine a critical gauge where uninspiring arena rockers like Van Halen are placed on the same level as R.E.M. or Patti Smith or even the Ronettes – but also because I recognize that the history of the music isn't as easy to compartmentalize, as these nominations would have you believe. Maybe there are some Van Halen fans pissed off at Sammy Hagar's omission . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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